You might think it happens when one of your children, a sweet former baby whose birth seems so recent, becomes a grandparent. You might think that but I don’t. After all, in some societies, including many folks in our own tribe, it’s common to become a grandparent before age 40. No one really thinks of 40 as geriatric. Hardly. Doesn’t life begin at 40? Forty is only a third of the journey to 120.
No, It’s more subtle than a number or a status. Subtle but sudden and stifling. It’s when your children start acting like they’re your parents.
They mean to be helpful. They don’t want you to fall or over exert yourself or work too hard. And so it was that a few weeks ago during one of New Jersey’s very annoying and prevalent snowstorms I got not one call from a daughter, but two……from different daughters. They looked out of their car windows and decided that I should not be driving that day. Nor should Abba. Point is that they decided.
Because of genes, I guess, each one posed her comment in a similar fashion, something very close to: I’ll be at the supermarket later so what can I pick up for you? Not as overbearing, say, as You shouldn’t be driving today. It’s too dangerous. You’re too old!
No matter that I’ve been driving a lot longer than either of them and that many of the cars I drove had no accoutrements such as airbags or seatbelts. I’m from the generation that needed to change to snowtires in the winter and drove around with chains in the trunk. I’m betting that those of my kids’ generation have no clue as to what I ever did with those chains. I learned to drive in the snow and still can do a mighty fine job of steering into a skid, whatever that means! Actually I should have phoned them and asked what they needed in the market. First of all I’m more dispensable. Secondly I’m a pretty capable snow-steerer.
The third daughter, who is actually the second child, and the first son, who is actually the fourth child, both of whom live in urban areas, didn’t call at all. They depend on public transportation which is navigable in all kinds of weather; it didn’t occur to either of them to worry about us. I appreciated their faith in our survivability.
But, seriously, I am both touched and scared by this interest in my welfare. I still think that I’m responsible for their welfare but somehow the tide has changed.
My physical limitations, notwithstanding, the worst is when I repeat myself or forget something. I’m old enough for dementia so why not consider it because I asked again the time or date or whatever of some event? I know they often consider that this is actually upon us. Maybe it is. However, I don’t put my car keys into the refrigerator . I know what they’re for and they’re not edible.
On the other hand I did recently lose my car at Cinema City in Glilot. But, then again, if there’s any patron of CC out there who has never lost a car in that parking lot, there’s one word for you: liar!
This overtaking of one generation by its successor is nothing new. I grew up in a four family house in which three of the apartments had a surviving grandparent as a permanent resident. It was just unheard of that any of them should live alone. So my mother’s father, Pop, lived with us, and my father’s father, Zayda, lived with my Aunt Edna and Uncle Abie, and my Aunt Ceil’s mother, Flippy, lived with Ceil and Uncle Benny. That’s just how it was. Nursing homes or assisted living must have existed in those days but it was never an option for our family members.
Times change. After my mother died, my father, who was over 90, chose to move into an assisted living facility in Raanana. Much to our surprise he thrived, made new friends and loved his remaining years…….no doubt more so than if he had moved in with my sister or me and been an appendage. My sister loves to tell the story of when she popped in on Dad one afternoon for a visit and he was just too busy to see her! That was a happy moment.
I’m conflicted about all of this. I’m happy that my children care but really know that I’m still competent. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading my blog!